Body Count – Carnivore

Ice-T is back, and he’s pissed. In Body Count’s newly released 5th album Carnivore, the rapper and Law And Order SVU star spits out lyrical bars admonishing police brutality, racism, and street violence. Stacked with stellar musicians, Carnivore sees Ice-T and the rest of Body Count pummel listeners with a sonic assault while raging against racial injustice. Tracks like the opener “Carnivore” literally soar in their roar, and “Bum Rush” slaps the listener with heavy riffs, perfectly mixing a hip-hop lyrical flow with heavy metal instrumentation. Add on some great guest vocal performance by Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta on “Another Level”,  Power Trip’s Riley Gale on “Point The Finger At You”, and Evanescence’s Amy Lee on the poignant “When I’m Gone,” Carnivore is a good album with enough variations in song style to be memorable throughout. Even though Carnivore doesn’t equal Body Count’s prior 2017 album Bloodlust in quality (“No Remorse” and the by the numbers “Ace Of Spades” cover are forgettable), Carnivore still stands up on its own merits. Containing great songs and relevant themes, Carnivore is worth sinking your teeth into.

Sepultura – Quadra

Sepultura’s Quadra has an interesting concept for an album. On their 15th LP, the legendary Brazil based heavy metal outfit decided to mix old school era Sepultura with the new. Over twelve tracks, Quadra is tracked to represent Sepultura’s sonic evolution. Divvied up into four stages with three songs apiece, the first three hard hitting tracks “Isolation”, “Means To An End,” and “Last Time” are reminiscent to tracks from early Sepultura classics like Arise; the second trio of tracks “Capital Enslavement,” “Ali,” and “Raging Void” feel inspired by Roots era Sepultura; the third group of tracks “Guardians Of The Earth,” “The Pentagram,” and “Autem” reflect the band’s efforts after lead vocalist Max Cavalera left the band; the final 3 songs “Quadra,” “Agony Of Defeat,” and “Fear, Pain, Chaos, And Suffering” reflect Sepultura’s modern sound. Whatever the era, Quadra is really good. The songs both hit hard and sound unique due to the various styles used across the album. As a result, Quadra is paced exceptionally well, and proves that even without Cavalera Sepultura still got it.

Five Finger Death Punch – F8

I don’t know why I do this to myself. I haven’t been a fan of anything released by  Five Finger Death Punch for almost a decade, yet here I am listening to Five Freddy Got Fingered Death Punch’s eighth album because I’m a putz. The bro metal icon’s new LP, F8 or fate because it combines F and the number eight (don’t think too hard about it, it’s really stupid) sounds as generic as we’ve come to expect from a Five Finger Death Punch release. Mixing clean singing and cookie monster vocals, Ivan Moody’s chorus lines are as cookie cutter as it gets, and Moody’s lyrics raging against how the world hates him are cringe inducing. Add some really basic guitar riffs and you have something mediocre. Admittedly some songs like “Inside Out”  and “This Is War” are solid enough, but the rest of the album’s poorly written vocals and repetitive riffs sink F8 into shit creek. It’s not very good.

Demons & Wizards – III

Demons & Wizards’ III meets me on my level. While the power metal supergroup consisting of Blind Guardian vocalist  Hansi Kursch and Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schafer hadn’t released an album since 2005’s Touched By The Crimson King, the band’s newly released aptly titled third album III delivers pure heavy metal bliss. Right from the opening track “Diabolic”, III hits the listener with heavy riffs and soaring vocals and doesn’t relent through its hour plus run time. Anthemic songs like “Wolves In Winter,” “Timeless Spirit,” and “Universal Truth” are especially catchy, and more guitar flashy songs like “Midas Disease” and “Split” are excellent to head bang to. Overall, III is a welcome comeback album.

Sylosis – Cycle Of Suffering

Sylosis’ Cycle Of Suffering is peculiarly catchy. Despite how the British heavy metal band’s new fifth album mostly lacks clean vocals, the death metal screams have lyrical hooks in them. Mind, this is just an observation rather than a complaint; Cycle Of Suffering is a really damn good record. Tracks like “I Sever” begin with a near unmatched ferocity only to bloom into something totally new by its conclusion. While Sylosis never goes soft on Cycle Of Suffering, the LP includes many beautiful vocal and instrumental flourishes that complement heavier songs like “Calcified” and “Idle Hands.” Cycle Of Suffering is easily one of 2020’s highlights thus far.

Intronaut – Fluid Existential Inversions

Intronaut goes full art house progressive on Fluid Existential Inversions. On their 6th LP (and their first in five years), Intronaut expands the definition of heavy metal to include new dimensional nuances. Even though tracks like “The Cull” and “Contrapasso” cement Intronaut as a heavy metal band, Fluid Existential Inversions sees the band extend beyond the genre’s trappings. In the aforementioned “The Cull,” the heavier sections in the beginning clear way for a beautiful yet haunting finale. Add the inventive off beat time signatures of tracks like “Cubensis,” excellent heavy riffs in songs like “Pangloss,” and the groovy elements in tracks like “Speaking Of Orbs,” and you have an excellent experimental heavy metal release. Intronaut’s Fluid Existential Inversions was well worth the wait.

Burning Witches – Dance With The Devil

Burning Witches’ Dance With The Devil is a female driven throwback to 80s era heavy metal. Inspired by New Wave Of British heavy metal stalwarts like Iron Maiden and Motorhead, Burning Witches’ new sophomore album is a pure nostalgia trip. Out of the gate, the LP roars with terrific guitar riffs and classic style heavy metal vocals on songs like “Lucid Nightmare” and the title track “Dance With The Devil” and relentlessly gifts the listener with a classic heavy metal experience. Tracks like “Wings Of Steel,” “Sea Of Lies,” and “Necronomicon” further add an epic catchy stadium rock layer reminiscent of a Judas Priest track. In this regard, Dance With The Devil is a near perfect blast from the past.

My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion

Gothic metal masters My Dying Bride are the musical equivalent of someone who never smiles. The band has always imbued their music with a grim aesthetic, and this is especially true of their newly released 14th LP The Ghost Of Orion. In fact, some songs feel directly inspired by vocalist Aaron Stainthor’s young daughter’s cancer diagnosis. Mixing death metal growls and depressive clean vocals, The Ghost Of Orion is imbued with a somber tone. Tracks like “To Outlive The Gods” and “Tired Of Tears” hit the listener’s emotional center especially hard, and the slow deep resonant guitar riffs and tear jerking orchestrals add a morbid layer to the music. The Ghost Of Orion is incredibly good, but here’s to hoping that My Dying Bride can smile again someday.

Kvelertak – Splid

I feared Kvelertak wouldn’t be as good without their original vocalist. When Ivar Nikolaisen replaced Erlend Hjelvik on vocals, I initially worried that the prominent black metal and hard rock fusion band would lose their unique niche, yet Kvelertak has put those worries to rest. On their good newly released fourth album Splid, Kvelertak are still as great as ever, mixing black metal screams with gritty hard rock aesthetic. Whether it’s the opener “Rogaland,” the lead single “Bratebrann,” the melodic yet heavy “Delirium Tremens,” or the catchy “Crack Of Doom (Featuring Mastodon’s Troy Sanders)”, Splid is stacked with excellent songs for fans of black metal, hard rock, and everyone in between. Really good.

Code Orange – Underneath

Let me be up front: Code Orange’s Underneath is my album of the year so far. While I’m unsure as to whether the album is better than Code Orange’s previous effort Forever, their newly released fourth album Underneath is a terrific experimental record featuring two prominent vocalists Jami Morigan and guitarist Reba Meyers and a wealth of musical influences such as hardcore, nu-metal, grunge, and industrial. In fact, the songs often range from brutally heavy to hauntingly melodic depending who lead the songs vocally. The Jami led tracks like the thundering “Swallowing The Rabbit Whole,” the mosh pit worthy “You And You Alone,” and the galloping “The Last Ones Left” slap the listener, repositions, then slaps again. The more melodic Reba led songs like the Nine Inch Nails tinged title track “Underneath,” the grungy “Sulfur Surrounding,” and the creepy “Who I Am” further add dimension to Code Orange’s sonic arsenal. Whether it’s the roaring Jami tracks, the catchy Reba songs, or tunes featuring both of them, Underneath is exceptionally well paced and memorable throughout its 14 tracks. The musical variety and capability Code Orange display’s on this album is nearly unmatched by any band, and as a result, Underneath will be featured on many year end lists. Mine included.

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